Blackpool’s brave youth team took Premier League giants Liverpool all the way to penalties at Bloomfield Road on Wednesday night before bowing out of the FA Youth Cup.
The young Seasiders had to come from behind twice in normal time, with a Conor Ready cracker cancelling out Jordan Ibe’s opener for The Reds, before captain Sam Staunton-Turner slammed home a second to equalise after another Ibe strike.
It went to extra-time, and Dom Telford’s stunning 30-yard chip over Liverpool goalkeeper Ryan Crump looked set to be the winner, but Reds substitute Sheyi Ojo equalised before the spot-kicks, which the Anfield outfit then won 4-3 in sudden death of the shoot-out.
Blackpool had come from behind to beat Morecambe on penalties in the Youth Alliance Cup at the weekend, and were fighting The Reds for the reward of hosting Aston Villa at home in the Fourth Round.
Richie Kyle threw all of Saturday’s substitutes into the starting line-up for the visit of Liverpool, while The Reds had Ibe, who has been on the first team’s bench seven times this season.
Their Premier League quality showed from the off, with Ibe going past Ready on the right by-line before seeing his low strike kept out by the legs of Connor Hunt at the near post, although The Reds soon took the lead.
Luke Higham found Ibe’s pace on the right difficult to deal with, and the winger broke through the inside right channel before taking the ball around Hunt and sliding it into an empty net.
The young Seasiders felt they should have had a free-kick in the build-up to the opener. However, they soon levelled with a stunner from Ready.
The midfielder, who struck at Millwall in the Youth Cup last season, fired from over 25 yards into Crump’s top-right corner, giving The Reds’ keeper no chance.
However, Liverpool continued to dominate with the ball and came close to retaking the lead, when Ibe came in off the right wing and saw his left foot strike, low towards the near corner, tipped onto the post by Hunt.
The winger fired another effort wide of the target before half-time, as both sides went in level at the break.
Half-Time: Blackpool 1–1 Liverpool
The young Tangerines started the second half well, with Cameron going through on goal inside the opening two minutes, but his attempted loft over Crump was parried away by the Reds’ keeper.
At the other end, Ibe had two strikes for Liverpool – the first flashing far wide of the right post on the run, before he fired a free-kick over the crossbar.
However, the skilful winger soon added his second to put The Reds back in front, by bursting onto a through ball down the right, before firing low into Hunt’s far corner.
It never hurt the young Seasiders though, who had to replace the injury-hit Lomax for Dom Telford, and Pool duly equalised after the hour mark.
Higham whipped a corner in from the right, Crump flapped at it before The Reds failed to clear, and captain Staunton-Turner smashed home the loose ball to level once again.
Pool went close to going ahead soon after, with Connor Thurston’s long-range strike being parried away by Hunt before Dion Charles slid in for the rebound, but scooped over.
The Reds had to replace the influential Ibe through injury, with his replacement Sergi Canos going close, striking a fierce drive from outside the box, which Hunt helped around his left post before it went to extra-time.
Full-Time: Blackpool 2-2 Liverpool
In the third period, Telford fresh off the bench, came to the fore, when he collected the ball in the Liverpool half and spotted Crump off his line, before sending a stunning lob over The Reds’ keeper to give the young Tangerines the lead for the first time in the match.
The striker could have added a fourth when he went around Crump in the box later on, but Lloyd Jones got back to block Telford’s goal-bound effort.
And The Reds then equalised when substitute Steyi Ojo hammered low into Hunt’s far corner after driving low.
There were chances for either side to win it in extra time, with Sinclair heading over a corner from Brannagan in front of Hunt six yards out.
Sinclair then had a fierce strike off his left foot beaten away by Hunt, and substitute Harry Wilson curled a late attempt just wide of the left post, but the game eventually went to penalties.
End of Extra-Time: Blackpool 3-3 Liverpool
Liverpool went first in the shootout with Pool having to keep coming from behind as Jones, Wilson and Ojo all scored for The Reds before sudden death.
In the end, it was a save at full stretch by Crump from Moulden’s high penalty, number six, which sent The Reds into the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup.
Final Score: Blackpool 3-3 Liverpool (4-3 Liverpool on pens)
BLACKPOOL TEAM: Hunt; Thurston, Moulden, McGahey, Higham; Staunton-Turner (c), Waddington, Ready; Cameron, Charles (Clayton), Lomax (Telford)
SUBS: Milton, Richardson, Clayton, Shaw, Telford
LIVERPOOL TEAM: Crump; Randall (c), Williams, Jones, Maguire; Ibe (Wilson), Rossiter, Chirivella,Brannagan (Ojo), Kent (Canos); Sinclair
SUBS: Canos, Firth, Ojo, Wilson, Brewitt
REFEREE: Mr J Dowd